Welcome to another installment of If My Book, the Monkeybicycle feature in which authors compare their recently released books to weird things. This week Michelle Ross writes about her latest story collection, They Kept Running, winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize, out now from University of North Texas Press.
If They Kept Running were a sport, it would be shot put, in which the objective is to hurl a wrecking ball as far away from you as possible.
If They Kept Running were an open wound, it would be a puncture: a small, precise hole created by something intended to make small, precise holes.
If They Kept Running were a muscle, it would be the heart, because it never rests (until it does).
If They Kept Running were a condiment flight, it would be a trio of hot sauces with high Scoville heat ratings: Devil’s tongue, then Trinidad scorpion, then ghost pepper.
If They Kept Running were a simple tool, it would be a wedge: best used for cleaving things apart.
If They Kept Running were a landform, it would be a volcano: even when it appears placid, beneath the surface, hot magma churns.
If They Kept Running were a dollhouse accessory, it would tiny cutlery.
If They Kept Running were candy, it would be a jawbreaker.
If They Kept Running were a venomous creature, it would be a Portuguese man o’war, its deadly tentacles pretty as party decorations: you want to reach out and touch them.
If They Kept Running were shoes, it would be steel-toed boots.
If They Kept Running were an amusement park ride, it would be the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, the way it disorients: Is it possible to fall up?
If They Kept Running were a tea kettle disguised as something else, it would be a tea kettle shaped like a hawk, and that hawk would be clutching a small, cute rodent in its beak, and the hot water would pour through the sieve of the rodent’s punctured body.
If They Kept Running were a mashup of two styles of painting, it would be chiaroscuro and abstract expressionism.
If They Kept Running were a lost object, it would be a stud earring: you search for it and search for it, but the way you find it is you roll over it and are stabbed in your sleep.
If They Kept Running were a souvenir, it would be a solo remainder of a once living thing: a tooth, a femur, a gall.
If They Kept Running were a horror movie trope, it would be the final girl, the one who survives, but not without a whole heck of a lot of baggage.
If They Kept Running were a cocktail, it would be something dark and smoky, like a cauldron.
If They Kept Running were a life cycle, it would be that of a beetle—the way it begins its life mushy and fragile but evolves into a heavily armored thing.
Michelle Ross is the author of three story collections: There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You, winner of the 2016 Moon City Short Fiction Award; Shapeshifting, winner of the 2020 Stillhouse Press Short Fiction Award (November 2021); and They Kept Running, winner of the 2021 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction. Her work is included in Best Small Fictions, Best Microfiction, the Wigleaf Top 50, and will be included in the forthcoming Norton anthology, Flash Fiction America. She is fiction editor of Atticus Review.